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News & Views - May, 2000 Issue #69

The Men They Will Become:
The Nature and Nurture of Male Character

By Eli H. Newberger, M.D.
(Perseus Books, 1999, $25.00)

A Book Review by
Carol Maxym, Ph.D.
San Diego, CA

I was excited when Lon asked me to review "The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character" (Eli H. Newberger, M.D., Perseus Books 1999, $25.00) because my professional experience has brought me to think that parents and professionals alike too often or too readily clinicalize problems which might better be understood if we reframe them as ‘character.’ That Newberger entitled Chapter One “What Is Character” and Chapter Two “The Roots of Character” attracted me immediately. But, this direction, so clearly announced in the book’s name as well as in the titles of these first two chapters, unfortunately, is never really developed. As I read through the book, I felt as though Newberger did not fully realize the unique importance of his own stated direction. He wrote an undeniably good book, filled with information, but not one which really investigates the “nature and nurture of male character,” nor, one that demonstrates how professionals and parents can learn from, and put this information to real, everyday use.

While easy enough to read, this is not a book for the casual reader. A bit too lengthy, it suffers from having too many examples. I almost get the feeling the book is “over-edited,” perhaps attempting to present too much information. Nevertheless, Newberger, a Boston pediatrician who also teaches at the Harvard Medical School is clearly a man and a professional who is deeply committed to children and their welfare. He writes with real sensitivity, and I know I felt he is the sort of man I would have been glad to have as my children’s pediatrician. He generously includes some anecdotes from his own life, but moves too quickly between anecdote, general observation, example, professional literature, and even some research studies. The result is a book which does not feel as though it is a unified whole with a clear direction.

The Men They Will Become is a valuable book, especially for parents who have not read widely in the parenting section and are seeking general information about young children, teens, and how they develop. But wait! Isn’t this a book about boys? Well, no, not really. Not only does the language move easily between “children” and “boys,” there is little which I find particularly more relevant to boys or the parents who raise them than to girls and the parents who are raising them. I almost got the feeling that the word “boys” was edited in to hone in on the burgeoning “boys’ book” market.

Categorizing "The Men They Will Become" as an overview of what happens with children and adolescents from their first years until maturity, clarifies that it is surely worthwhile book. But, it is not a book that offers solutions or even hints to parents who are seeking help with the problems they may be having with their boys. I would feel more comfortable recommending this as a good book to use as an adjunct to a textbook for a beginning developmental psychology course than to parents seeking information or help about their own particular situation.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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